John Frary taught college-level history and political science for 23 years. He’s an associate editor for the International Military Encyclopedia and can speak with penetrating insight about Nazi Germany’s military intelligence services and Hermann Balck, a leading German blitzkrieg general of World War II.
The son of the owner of the Frary Wood Turning Co. in Wilton, Frary grew up shoveling sawdust, operating spindle and automatic lathes, doing everything -a minimum-wage worker could do for a small, family-run Maine company except cleaning out boilers.
Only a touch of claustrophobia kept him from doing that, he said.
In his spare time, Frary, who has a master’s degree from Rutgers University, has been a conservative political columnist. He has amused an audience of about 300 college professors by editing a satirical literary criticism newsletter inspired by “Gulliver’s Travels.” The newsletter’s favorite concept, he said, “was the idea that people do their deepest thinking when they are sitting on the pot.”
Now the Republican selectman from Farmington wants to be the congressman representing the 2nd Congressional District. He is running what he readily concedes to be an uphill race against the Democratic incumbent, U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud.
“I thought it would be a good idea to inject a little seriousness into the political life of the state of Maine by addressing people in complete sentences, paragraphs and [newspaper] articles,” Frary said in his droll, slightly pedantic manner.
“From my research, I have read that Congress has an approval rating of about 10 percent, which is mysterious,” he added. “I can’t imagine what the 10 percent were thinking of.”
Frary, 67, seems to enjoy whatever he does.
Unlike many politicians, he readily admits what he doesn’t know and offers pithy asides on everything from “the sad fallacies of higher education” to the inclusiveness of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
“Nobody else I know ever took interest in the salvation of my immortal soul, and they are true models of diversity,” he said.
And he is serious about politics, even if he doesn’t give himself much chance to win against Michaud.
As a candidate, Frary lists among his priorities improving medical facilities for veterans, especially in the district’s remote areas; improving efficiency at state universities and colleges; cutting government spending; and, though he regards it with many misgivings, bailing Wall Street out of the present financial crisis.
“All the objections to it make sense to me, but I see the problem as something familiar in history from the 1830s, 1890s and 1929, and that is a panic,” Frary said. “We need to head this off.
“We know what it leads to — a liquidity crisis, which depresses the whole economy. I have no idea whether it [President Bush’s bailout bill and other federal government measures] will work or not, but I can guarantee that [U.S. Treasury officials] know a helluva lot more about this than does Congress,” he said.
He would love to see an oil refinery built at the former Loring Air Force Base. With its wastewater treatment facilities and water supply, it could be a great place for one, he said.
A pipeline connecting the refinery to Searsport would be relatively inexpensive and provide many financial benefits to the region, he said.
As a congressman, Frary said he would donate his salary to causes he espouses.
“It’s chump change in terms of the money, but it’s a promise I know I can keep,” he said.
He said he would support the legalization of marijuana and promises to hold a monthly contest for the stupidest, most contradictory and destructive federal or state regulation.
“When I first got into this, I figured I would have my say, go broke on the campaign trail and then go to bed,” Frary said. “But with all the response I get from the campaign trail, maybe I will stay awake on election night. There might be a helluva shock in store that night.
“Whether I or Mike Michaud will be shocked remains to be seen.”